Craig Commanda and myself, Clark Ferguson, were lucky enough to be at the first ever Indigenous Innovation Summit in Winnipeg on November 18-20. The conference was initiated by the National Association of Friendship Centres and was filled with groups and individuals looking towards new strategies for old problems that are inspired by Indigenous Innovation. Craig and I represented Wapikoni mobile in the Arts and Innovation side of the summit and were paired with Sandra LaRonde, the Director of Indigenous Arts at the Banff Centre and Artistic Director of Red Sky, and the fine folks at Art City, a Winnipeg core city centre youth arts program. We spoke to an audience regarding how the separate arts organizations’ work within communities and spoke of obstacles and innovation and general optimism. Craig Commanda introduced his film, The Weight, and graciously spoke of what Wapikoni mobile has done for him as an individual and him as an artist. Craig, like the many speakers at the summit, spoke from the heart and shared his story on a very emotional and personal level. There was a real hunger to see a project like Wapikoni Mobile or to see Wapikoni Mobile itself have more of a presence in communities located in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Some incredible highlights at the summit were witnessing some notable First Nations speakers such as Justice Murray Sinclair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada; Writer and Metis Elder, Maria Campbell; elder and Knowledge keeper, Dave Courchene; CBC personality and writer, Wab Kinew; BC association of Aboriginal Friendship Centre Executive Director, Paul Lacerte, and many many more. It was an inspiring couple of days that focused on creating not only dialogue, but sharing of new ways of achieving success. The summit focused on creating new connections amongst groups focused on common goals. I personally felt inspired to see how other organizations were reshaping their organizations to instill leadership throughout their organizations and communities. Also, to see the dedication of Justice Murray Sinclair and all of those involved in the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission of Canada was a highlight. To hear the discussion of what they have achieved and how the shared shameful history of the Residential School System will no longer be kept secret was nothing less than awe-inspiring.
Photo: © Teddy Syrette